People in his native France might snub ingredients like spelt flour, but Lionel Vatinet has no trouble in North Carolina finding fans of his healthy, delicious creations.

The caricature of a french baker is a paunchy fellow who peddles sugary pastries and breads made from snowy white flour. Lionel Vatinet has the French part down, but everything else this master baker does at his La Farm Bakeries in Cary (and his upcoming store in Raleigh), North Carolina, breaks that mold. A few years ago, after finding out his cholesterol was dangerously high, Vatinet—who joined the prestigious French guild Les Compagnons du Devoir at the age of 16—started making many of his breads and pastries healthier by cutting back on salt and adding more whole grains, nuts and seeds. "In France, the health authorities are trying to pass a law that limits the amount of salt bakers can use in bread doughs," he says. "Salt intake is something people need to be aware of." Vatinet also introduced locally milled flour and local honey to foods like his chunky granola, and began experimenting with flours made from spelt, rye and quinoa. "When I found out I had high cholesterol, I didn’t want to be a slave to a pill for the rest of my life," he says. "I’m not the only one who has this problem—why not help other people, too?"